Voice and Swallowing Disorders

ENT of Parker offers a full range of services to cover voice and swallowing disorders, including medical, surgical, therapeutic and counseling interventions. We are dedicated to helping patients who suffer from these disorders, as well as any other disorders related to the larynx and throat, and vocal cords.

We recognize that voice and swallowing difficulties are hard to deal with personally, socially, as well as professionally, so we work hard to help patients overcome these maladies through proper diagnosis, treatment and/or rehabilitation.

What Is a Voice Disorder?

A voice disorder occurs when your vocal folds become inflamed, develop growths or become paralyzed. Basically, it is any change in the voice that prevents the patient from being able to do with their voice whatever it is that they need to do. This may range from a complete inability to produce speech to a subtle difference in the quality of a singer’s voice.

What Causes a Voice Disorder?

Voice disorders may be the result of lifestyle choices (occupational or social vocal demands), medical problems, or a combination of the two. There are a variety of medical conditions that can lead to voice problems, and they are often gradual in onset. The most common causes of hoarseness and vocal difficulties include

  • Acute Laryngitis
  • Advanced Aging
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Benign Vocal Cord Lesions (e.g., nodules, polyps, cysts)
  • Cancers of the Head and Neck
  • Chronic Laryngitis
  • Laryngeal Cancer
  • Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Disease (LPR)
  • Medications
  • Muscle Tension Dysphonia (MTD)
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Reinke’s Edema
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Smoking
  • Spasmodic Dysphonia
  • Upper Respiratory Infections
  • Vocal Cord Hemorrhage
  • Vocal Coard Paralysis and Paresis
  • Voice Misuse and Overuse

What Are The Symptoms of a Voice Disorder?

Patients may experience any of the following symptoms associated with a voice disorder including

  • Breathlessness When You Speak
  • Hoarseness or Other Change in the Pitch, Timbre or Quality of Your Voice
  • Decreased Speaking or Singing Range
  • Difficulty Making the Voice Sufficiently Loud or Soft
  • Difficulty with Register Transitions of the Speaking or Singing Voice
  • Increased Throat Clearing
  • Sensation of “Something” in The Throat
  • Tightness, Discomfort, or a Burning Sensation in the Throat
  • Tremor Quality or Abrupt Starts and Stops That Are Involuntary
  • Vocal Fatigue or Pain on Phonation

Patients who have voice problems due to benign vocal cord lesions such as nodules, polyps, or cysts, may have issues with hoarseness, limitations in pitch, range, and volume; shortness of breath; the need to cough or clear the throat frequently; or vocal fatigue.

Who Is at Most Risk for Developing a Voice Disorder?

Professional voice users such as teachers, attorneys, salespeople, receptionists, sports coaches and participants, singers, and actors have the highest risk of developing voice disorders. This is due to the increased demand they place on their voices to do their jobs.

How Are Voice Disorders Diagnosed?

Based on your symptoms, your doctor may perform any one of the following diagnostic tests to see if you have a voice disorder:

Flexible Laryngoscope. A flexible tube containing a light and camera is inserted through your nose.

Rigid Laryngoscope. A rigid viewing tube is inserted through your mouth.

Videostroboscope. A camera is combined with a flashing light to provide a slow-motion view of your vocal cords as they move.

What Treatment Options are Available for Voice Disorders?

Your ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor will work closely with you to understand your concerns and tailor your treatment plan to suit your needs and lifestyle. The majority of voice problems are not life-threatening and are easily treatable. Vocal disorders are usually treated with:

Allergy Treatments. For some patients, allergies create too much mucus in the throat, so allergy testing may be recommended in order to pinpoint the allergen and provide subsequent treatment.

Botox Injection. Botox is injected into your neck to decrease muscle spasms or abnormal movements that affect the vocal muscles of the larynx.

Medication. Medication can help to reduce inflammation, treat gastroesophageal reflux or prevent blood vessel regrowth. They can be taken orally, injected into the vocal cords or applied topically during surgery.

Surgery. Surgery recommendations are usually dependent on your diagnosis but may include removal of lesions (polyps, nodules, and cysts) from the vocal cords using microsurgery, carbon-dioxide laser surgery, or potassium titanyl phosphate (KTP) laser treatment.

Voice Therapy. Speech pathology specialists can teach you how to use your voice more efficiently through voice therapy, which involves vocal and physical exercises coupled with behavioral changes.

For cases where one vocal cord may stop moving (becomes paralyzed), there are two procedures that can be done to push the paralyzed vocal cord closer to the middle of the windpipe so that the vocal cords can meet and vibrate closer together. This is done to improve the voice and allows the larynx to close when you swallow.

Fat or Collagen Injection. Body fat or synthetic collagen is injected through your mouth or the skin on your neck to add bulk to the paralyzed vocal cord or to treat vocal cord weakness.

Thyroplasty. For this procedure, a small opening is created in the cartilage from the outside of your voice box (larynx), and an implant is inserted through the opening and is pushed against the paralyzed vocal cord, moving it closer to your other vocal cord.

What is a Swallowing Disorder?

Difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia) is common among all age groups, especially the elderly. The term dysphagia refers to the feeling of difficulty passing food or liquid from the mouth to the stomach.

What Causes a Swallowing Disorder?

Swallowing problems are a common symptom of many medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and scleroderma. For other patients, swallowing problems may be due to neurological injuries due to stroke or trauma to the head or spinal cord; or due to progressive neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, and Multiple Sclerosis. And still, other patients may have swallowing problems due to head and neck tumors.

What Are The Symptoms of a Swallowing DIsorder?

If you are having any of the following symptoms, you should get checked for a possible swallowing problem, including:

  • Discomfort in the throat or chest (when gastroesophageal reflux is present)
  • Drooling
  • Frequent choking on food
  • Feeling that food or liquid is sticking in the throat
  • Pain When Swallowing
  • Recurring Pneumonia (indicates that food may be going into the lungs rather than the esophagus)
  • Sensation of a foreign body or lump in the throat
  • Voice change
  • Weight loss and Inadequate Nutrition (due to a prolonged or more significant problem with swallowing)

How Do You Diagnose a Swallowing Disorder?

In order to diagnose the cause of a swallowing problem, one of our specialists will look into your throat. This is usually done with a small scope in the office that is inserted through the nose. This procedure provides visualization of the back of the tongue, throat, and larynx (voice box). Other tests that may be performed include

Cineradiography. This is an imaging test in which a camera is used to film internal body structures. During the test, you will be asked to swallow a barium preparation (liquid or other forms that light up under X-ray). An X-ray machine with videotaping capability will be used to view the barium preparations movement through the esophagus. This is often performed under the guidance of a speech pathologist, an expert in swallowing as well as speech.

Upper Endoscopy. An endoscope, a flexible narrow tube, is passed into the esophagus and projects images of the inside of the pharynx and esophagus on a screen for evaluation.

Manometry. This test measures the timing and strength of esophageal contractions and muscular valve relaxation.

Impedance and pH Test. This test can determine if acid reflux is causing a swallowing problem.

What Treatment Options Are Available for Swallowing Disorders?

Many of these disorders can be treated with medication. Drugs that slow stomach acid production, muscle relaxants, and antacids are a few of the many medicines available. Treatment is usually tailored to the particular cause of the swallowing disorder.

What Can Happen If a Swallowing Disorder is Left Untreated?

Some people don’t realize they have a swallowing problem and just decide to eat foods that are easier to eat or they eat more slowly. If a swallowing problem is left untreated, however, it raises your risk for choking or having large pieces of food lodge in your esophagus.

If you become hoarse frequently or notice a voice change for an extended period of time,

Please contact ENT of Parker today at (303) 840-9690 for a voice disorder consultation.

Likewise, if you believe you are suffering from a swallowing disorder, please contact us to set up a consultation. You may also schedule an appointment online.